A Dilemma

Okay, so I’m in a bit of a dilemma right now. And, it’s all because of a book, a movie, and my belief that you can’t judge something until you’re familiar with it.

In case you haven’t heard, there’s this movie coming out. The Golden Compass. The movie is based on the first book in a series written by a man who is a professed atheist. Here is what it says on snopes.com

“The Golden Compass, a fantasy film starring Nicole Kidman that is scheduled to be released into theaters on 7 December 2007, has been drawing fire from concerned Christians. The film is based on Northern Lights (released in the U.S. as The Golden Compass), the first offering in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy of children’s books, a series that follows the adventures of a streetwise girl who travels through multiple worlds populated by witches, armor-plated bears, and sinister ecclesiastical assassins to defeat the oppressive forces of a senile God.

Books of the trilogy have sold more than 15 million copies around the world, with Northern Lights winning the Carnegie Medal for Children’s Literature in 1995 and in 2007 being awarded the ‘Carnegie of Carnegies’ for the best children’s book of the past 70 years. The Amber Spyglass , the final book of the series, won The Whitbread Prize in 2001, making it the first children’s book to do so.

The series’ author, Philip Pullman, is an avowed atheist who has averred that “I don’t profess any religion; I don’t think it’s possible that there is a God; I have the greatest difficulty in understanding what is meant by the words ‘spiritual’ or ‘spirituality.'” Critics of Pullman’s books point to the strong anti-religion and anti-God themes they incorporate, and although literary works are subject to a variety of interpretations, Pullman left little doubt about his intentions when he said in a 2003 interview that “My books are about killing God.” (Conservative British columnist Peter Hitchens labeled Pullman “The Most Dangerous Author in Britain” and described him as the writer “the atheists would have been praying for, if atheists prayed.”)

Bill Donohue, president of The Catholic League, has condemned The Golden Compass as a “pernicious” effort to indoctrinate children into anti-Christian beliefs and has produced a 23-page pamphlet titled The Golden Compass: Unmasked in which he maintains that Pullman “sells atheism for kids.” Donohoe told interviewer John Gibson on 9 October 2007 why he believes Christians should stay away from the film:

Look, the movie is based on the least offensive of the three books. And they have dumbed down the worst elements in the movie because they don’t want to make Christians angry and they want to make money. Our concern is this, unsuspecting Christian parents may want to take their kid to the movie, it opens up December 7th and say, this wasn’t troubling, then we’ll buy the books. So the movie is the bait for the books which are profoundly anti-Catholic and at the same time selling atheism.

Other critics, however, have described Pullman’s works as being more generally anti-religion rather than specifically anti-Christian or anti-Catholic:

In “His Dark Materials,” Pullman’s criticisms of organized religion come across as anti-authoritarian and anti-ascetic rather than anti-doctrinal. (Jesus isn’t mentioned in any of the books, although Pullman has hinted that He might figure in a forthcoming sequel, “The Book of Dust.”) His fundamental objection is to ideological tyranny and the rejection of this world in favor of an idealized afterlife, regardless of creed. As one of the novel’s pagan characters puts it, “Every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.”

So, there’s a lot to be said against this movie. And anything that depicts children as killing God I have serious issues with. What is my dilemma, then, you may ask? I also have serious issues with being completely against something you’ve never read or studied. For instance, many Christians view the Harry Potter books as equally evil, vile, and wrong. While they may not be “killing God,” many Christians hate the books. The annoying part is that the most vocal of these Christians have never picked up a Harry Potter book, much less read the first 100 pages of one. I have, and I’ve blogged before about my opinions about Harry.

So, my question is this…if I condemn this book and series without reading it, am I any different from the people I’ve gotten into fights with about Harry Potter and how it doesn’t make me evil to have read the series – and enjoyed it?


  1. Emily, as you could have probably guessed, I can completely understand and relate to your dilemma. The only difference is that my former English professor, for whom I have the utmost respect, who is also an avid HP fan, LOTR fan, and all around sci-fi enthusiast, has resolutely stood against Phillip Pullman’s writing due to the simple fact that evil always triumphs over good in the novels.Still, having not read the books myself, I have refrained from most conversations about them for fear that I would sound like one of those HP haters that you mentioned, who speak based on what they have heard, rather than trying to figure it out for themselves.I’ll be honest. I have never even considered reading the books for myself. Yet, I know that I cannot in good conscience recommend or not recommend the movies or books without having formed my own opinion.My solution for now is to let my time make the choice for me. With school and everything else, I don’t have time to read anything new, so I’ll just have to let this one go for now.It is difficult to be a person that fights the banning of books with all your might, only to come across a book that finds you on the fence between whether or not it should be available to children, is it not? I still don’t believe in banning books. But at least until my life is less crazy, I’m choosing to just stay out of this one.

  2. We’ve had that kind of discussion around here, too. I think this one is a bit different and more dangerous… it seems to have a purposefully sneaky agenda. And an author who specifically admits he designs characters to kill God sounds dangerous to me.I think I will definitely choose not to support financially this author/movie/books. If I choose to read the books (I’ve read others by him and had some icky feelings, knowing nothing of this series), I would borrow them, not purchase them.I’ll email you a discussion about it that I read. While it had some things I wouldn’t agree with totally, there were some valid scriptural things to think about, too.I’d be interested in hearing what you decide.

  3. Finished book two in the series.Seems like forces are coming together for a rematch of the legendary battle in heaven eons ago, only the child-heroes appear to be aiming at seeing a different outcome than the first battle. (ie, God lose, Satan win…or whatever names Pullman will use.)I’m just not feeling it is a children’s book, what with mention that the Church cuts off children’s sexual organs and hints at some other sexual stuff, plus some talk of killings that cross the line from what is usually appropriate in children’s books.I can understand the author’s problem with the Church. Most Christians despise those same aspects of the Church past and present. But this idea that perhaps the God of heaven that we’re familiar with may be the bad guy is a concept worth saving for older kids or adults.Christians behaving badly doesn’t mean Christ or God are bad, but that seems to be the logic I’m picking up for why “the Authority” (God) must be challenged.Can’t wait to finish book three so I can have the whole picture.

Comments are closed.